Teacher suspended for dissing students

The young English teachers’ students were “rude, disengaged, lazy whiners,” she wrote on her blog. But 30-year-old Natalie Munroe wants to keep teaching the unmotivated brats at a suburban Philadelphia high school. She was suspended with pay after students found her blog, which did not identify the school or students but called her “Natalie M.”

“My students are out of control,” Munroe, who has taught 10th, 11th and 12th grades, wrote in one post. . . . ” They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying.”

And in another post, Munroe — who is more than eight months pregnant — writes: “Kids! They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs. Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS.” She also comes up with a colorful list of comments that she felt should be available on student report cards.

“Parents are more trying to be their kids’ friends and less trying to be their parent,” Munroe told AP. “They want everything right now. They want it yesterday.”

A former student, now in college, Jeff Shoolbraid told AP that much of what Munroe said was true and that she had a right to voice her opinion. But she’s not fit to be a teacher, he said in an e-mail.

 “I just thought it was completely inappropriate. As far as motivated high school students, she’s completely correct. High school kids don’t want to do anything. .. It’s a teacher’s job, however, to give students the motivation to learn.”

And what is the student’s job?

The comments were “tongue in cheek” caricatures of students, Munroe told ABC News. Apparently, she made the rookie error of thinking that only her friends would read the blog. Now she’s hired a lawyer to defend her free-speech rights — the school has no online policy for teachers — and demand her job back. I suspect she’ll be accaused of violating the “professionalism” clause in her contract, but I can’t predict how the case will play out.

Many teacher bloggers criticize students’ motivation and work ethic. Some fantasize about what they’d like to say to parents. Few teacher bloggers write only about their frustrations, but I’ve run across some very frustrated people out there.

I’d hate to see teacher bloggers feel constrained to write only happy talk. But it’s wise to assume  your students, their parents, your colleagues and administrators will find your blog eventually.

Update: Natalie Munroe’s new blog is here.

Ed Week’s Teacher has a forum here.

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Comments

  1. It took my students about a week to find my blog once I started it. I might write controversial stuff, but I never insult or berate anyone I know.

    You might as well blog under your real name, people will figure it out eventually.

  2. Parents and kids must accept responsibility for the attitudes, behaviors and work ethic they display. Teachers can encourage and teachers/admins should enforce behavioral standards, but kids and parents must be willing to follow the rules and put in the effort to learn. As a HS-principal relative said; “learning is an active process, not a passive one.”

  3. She neither posted under her full name nor identified her students so IMHO she did nothing wrong.

  4. Michael E. Lopez says:

    She got caught. She did something wrong.

  5. Mr. McNamar says:

    This type of attack on teachers makes me nervous as an edublogger. The notion that, we, as teachers, should censor the truth (with the exception of student names) because of our chosen profession is puritanical at best. As education spending and reform grab national headlines, it is high time for the realities of many classrooms to be on full display.

  6. Roger Sweeny says:

    “Kids! They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs. Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS”

    That is part of the lyric of the song “Kids” from the 1960 musical, “Bye Bye Birdie.”

    Kids!
    I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
    Kids!
    Who can understand anything they say?
    Kids!
    They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs!
    Noisy, crazy, dirty, lazy, loafers!
    While we’re on the subject:
    Kids!
    You can talk and talk till your face is blue!
    Kids!
    But they still just do what they want to do!
    Why can’t they be like we were,
    Perfect in every way?
    What’s the matter with kids today?
    Kids!
    I’ve tried to raise him the best I could
    Kids! Kids!
    Laughing, singing, dancing, grinning, morons!
    And while we’re on the subject!
    Kids! They are just impossible to control!
    Kids! With their awful clothes and their rock an’ roll!
    Why can’t they dance like we did
    What’s wrong with Sammy Caine?
    What’s the matter with kids today!

  7. Peace Corps says:

    My father always told me “don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to make front page news.” I’ve not always followed his advice, but I did take it to heart.

  8. Roger, that’s why I heard Paul Lynde’s voice when I read that…

  9. Teacher blogging is an open issue that makes me very nervous. The fact that she wrote mean things about her kids confuses the issue. Anyone remember California Teacher Guy, who took his blog private because his principal found out about it? And I was reprimanded at Stanford (while at ed school) despite having written nothing mean at all, and despite the fact that Stanford had no blogging policy to violate.

    Then you’ve got Not all Flowers and Sausages, who writes all sorts of unpleasant things about teachers, students, parents, and administrators–and gets a book deal.

    It’s very unnerving.

  10. When I blogged about this recently, I made a point about how incorrect her judgment was in posting this stuff about kids, regardless of whether or not the assessment of the students was accurate — http://rhymeswithright.mu.nu/archives/311937.php

    And let me be honest about blogging — I write on political issues for the most part, not school. But even then, I do sometimes have to pull a punch because of concerns about how it might be perceived by the small group of community members (a little cadre of activist Democrats with all the moral fiber and commitment to freedom of a gang of neo-Nazis) who have for the last five years made regular attempts to have me fired over some perceived insensitivity of my words about some political figure or issue. Fortunately, my principals and my district are well aware of my rights under the US Constitution and the constitution of my state. and has dismissed such complaints when they have been made.

  11. Mike Curtis says:

    Truth is hate to those who hate the truth.

  12. Heh, what is a student’s job indeed. This one doesn’t seem to realize that “student” derives from the Latin studeo, to show enthusiasm or zeal in doing something…as for instance, in studying. A lazy slug is the opposite of a student.

  13. Let’s be clear: you vent in a teacher bar, among other teachers, over adult beverages — not where the kids can find it. I don’t see how what she says is earth-shattering, though. It’s not a particular kid, and I know plenty of teachers who says such things to their classes.

  14. Michael E. Lopez says:

    What’s wrong with what she did is that she puts the principal in a bad position. People start asking the principal, “Why do your teachers make public comments about how bad your students are?”

    What’s the Principal supposed to say?

    Part of the relationship that one has with one’s supervisor is an implicit promise to make your supervisor look good. In return, your supervisor is *supposed* to look out for you.

    I realize that many Principals spend about as much time looking out for their teachers as they do waxing their cats, but that doesn’t dissolve the teacher’s responsibility to make the Principal and the school look good.

    And that’s where this teacher went awry. It had nothing to do with the fact that teachers should or shouldn’t blog, or whether the comments were advisable or inadvisable on their own. It had everything to do with the position in which it put her boss.

  15. “She got caught. She did something wrong.”

    America’s education system has been dumbed down through the decades but that statement shows us how much it’s happened. That type of mentality is not thinking. What did she get caught at? Is blogging codified as illegal in her district? If it isn’t and it’s not in the teacher handbook, then she did nothing wrong.

    What exactly did she do wrong? “Something” is rather vague and left up to perception. I did “something” today–was it wrong? Was I wrong? Did I get caught? You betcha!

    This statement reminds me when people used to tell me “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear!” And that statement led us into two illegal wars–because the government didn’t find anything that was hidden. And it led to 937 lies told to the American people and the rest of the world. And many people were illegally detained and had everything to fear.

    So this inane statement drives education to it’s worst and keeps us all afraid. Some will delete their blogs for fear of losing their jobs, even if their districts have nothing codified and published. Others will go underground. And we’ll have more people afraid to become teachers when eduacation is already at its lowest ebb.

  16. ” People start asking the principal, “Why do your teachers make public comments about how bad your students are?””

    And what if the teacher wrote it in an email that was inadvertently made public? What if the teacher wrote a newspaper op ed in which she made these comments?

    That’s what bothers me about this subject–is it the blogging? The content? The comments?

    If the problem is that the teacher shouldn’t even have these thoughts, then the real issue is that she’s being fired for her thoughts, not whether she expressed them in a blog or a letter. So could someone put together a list of thoughts a teacher isn’t allowed to have?

  17. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Cal — It’s not the thoughts. It’s the expression. And it’s not even that: it’s the problem she created. You can have whatever thoughts you want, so long as you don’t express them in a way that makes life difficult for your boss.

    Does this raise potential first amendment issues? Maybe. But only because her employer is the government. In any other situation she’d be out on her @$$ so fast it would make her head spin. Imagine: “My customers are such LOSERS always whining about our bills….”

    **********************

    And Cathryn: If u think Im evidents of a failing ed system… well, OK. Sure. Obviously u got sum mad phaqt inferenchul skillz in ur own toor of our skoolz, so I’ll bow 2 ur expertise.

  18. Her comments went beyond just the most quoted about the kids being lazy whiners. I work in healthcare…if I were to post something that had enough personally identifying information so that people could guess my identity, and my post contained disparaging information about patients I had met, I’d have no doubt I could be fired…whether I worked at a private or public institution.

    While her blog may have had a grain of truth , I think her delivery of her point failed. And really what did she hope to accomplish with remarks like “your kid dresses like a streetwalker”, or “I hear the trash company is hiring”….which is really not necessary, and is hurtful to kids who might have parents who are sanitation workers.

  19. I used to teach in Tanzania, in English/Geography/Sports for a crowd of 40 in the ages of 14-28, though the mentality was completely different from a western school, the mindset of a noisy teen was never far off.

    I definitely understand the annoyance and irritation towards loud students from time to time, but to write it on a blog for the world to see? It is a bit shortsighted.

    But still, it sounds like a really sad story.

  20. It’s a teacher’s job, however, to give students the motivation to learn.

    Yes, we can do that and a helluva lot more. We’re God. Parents are no longer needed. Like my principal said: “If they’re not learning it, you’re not teaching it.” Sounds reasonable to me.

  21. Charles R. Williams says:

    This is a case about bad judgment. If Monroe had not posted her picture and had just called herself Natalie, the issue would not arise.

    Now teachers do get frustrated and blow off steam. Maybe she should not be in teaching but maybe as a relatively new teacher she is not getting the support she needs from the administration. Who knows? But it is true that teachers have to put up with all kinds of student behavior that they should not have to tolerate and administrators routinely do not back up teachers having difficulty dealing with students. There has been a seismic cultural shift that puts the onus on the teacher to manage behavior and motivate rather than on the student to work and to conform to the requirements of the school setting.

  22. MIke Antonucci posted about this teacher. http://www.eiaonline.com/intercepts/2011/02/10/in-defense-of-the-blogging-teacher/

    Her comments about her students go over the line which defines what anyone may publicly say–and still be able to teach. Her comments may be true, but if so, she should get out of teaching for her own mental health.

    Kids will sometimes come home and say, “So-and-so hates me.” Most of the time, parents should be able to say, “she doesn’t hate you; you’re overreacting.” Now that these blog posts are public knowledge, no parent can tell her child anything other than, “Yes, she probably does. She’s burnt-out and bitter.”

    However, it is not the teacher’s job to give the student the motivation to learn. The expectation that motivation can come from outside one’s self is perverse.

  23. Three cheers for pseudonymity! :D

  24. Not only is she back to blogging, she is not taking reponsibility for her actions, nor is she remorseful. I saw the huge laundry lists of insults on another website….how does a community possible move forward from that.

    How would she ever expect anyone to respect her….especially when she refuses to apologize.

  25. This is absolutely ridiculous. Let me give you a few observations from an Australian perspective – and all of this is assuming that everything reported thus far is factual.

    1. She didn’t identify herself or her school – OK, not hard to figure out I guess.

    2. She blogged it (we can safely assume) using per PRIVATE computer in her OWN time – i.e. not using any school resources.

    3. She didn’t defame anyone, she just offered her opinion and commented on her observations. As far as I can see she didn’t name students at all.

    I can’t see the school has ANY RIGHT to suspend her, assuming there’s nothing in her contract of employment saying that she “will not blog or comment privately, even anonymously, on school matters”, which I seriously doubt there is.

    OK, the school might not LIKE what she said after she was identified by a student, but TOUGH – it was a private activity and none of their damn business.

    Here in Australia we see this sort of thing happening all the time, and we have no constitutionally protected Right of Free Speech to back us up – but it’s still a matter of a PRIVATE activity.

    And for what it’s worth, her comments were right. My two daughters (6 and 10) go to a private school here in Sydney (because the public system sucks so much we make the sacrifices for our kids’ education), and even at that school I see evidence of the behavior mentioned in the senior year students.

    The really SCAREY thing is some of these slackers could be the future leaders of our (your) country !!!

    I see evidence of this every day – students arguing with teachers because they don’t like their grades, don’t like doing as they are instructed (and this school is pretty easy-going), and don’t want to follow the school rules – rules they are aware of and have been since they started – in fact they have to sign a written agreement saying that they will obey the rules or get kicked out.

    I blame the parents for the most of it – I see them not caring about what their kids do or the people their kids mix with, not obeying the rules themselves (speed limit in the school carpark and directional signs is the big issue) – if the parents can’t obey the rules how can we expect their kids too ??

  26. I can feel the mock outrage from the students, parents, and administration from where I’m sitting. As if anyone is really shocked or hurt. But the students are getting a good laugh over it all. And the adults are enjoying going through the motions of a good indignation.

  27. As a teacher she definitely can’t afford making such remarks on her blog. She should have discussed the problems she had directly with the parents of those children instead of presenting them publicly.

  28. Students are doing totally wrong because teaching is a very noble profession everyone should respect them and especially students because they learn lot from their teachers.

  29. While I understand Munroe’s argument about people complaining about ‘coworkers’ it should be noted that the internet is often used when people are seeking new employment. Social networks are some of the first places potential employers look and often times base their choice on that very thing. How one conducts themselves…is it right to judge someone based on how they spend their down time? I don’t think it’s fair but it should be left up to the discretion of the work place how they deal with it…and in this case, this is a teacher of our children…is this the type of teacher you want for YOUR kids????? Seems to me she doesn’t really belong working with kids if she thinks those sorts of things. And she doesn’t really seem to enjoy her job all that much….and what happens when her kids are fodder for this sort of rant? Will she laugh and scoff at it and turn the other cheek?

    What she says may very well be true…but some things are better left for face to face conversation..imagine how the kids might feel thinking she may be talking about them? I don’t really care how the parents feel because I do believe parenting in this world needs some work.

    But this is a teacher, someone kids look up to, someone who wants and should deserve the respect of her students…what will this sort of thing do for kids? And as a parent, how exactly is it that I should respect those who teach my kids and support them when they say they work for the kids after hearing so many applaud and pat this woman on the back? Where exactly is the respect for the kids????? Aren’t they human beings as well? Shouldn’t they (her coworkers) be warranted some level of respect just as you or I would like at our own places of employment?

    Frankly, this woman is a professional and should really consider that. She should conduct herself in that way and should have been a bit more discreet with her ‘feelings’. I certainly know what it’s like to work with children…I did so for 15+ years and it’s no picnic on many days, it’s hard work, and the frustration with parents is just as bad–if not worse. But I also knew better than to write it on a public blog. It’s called internet etiquette people and employers need to be very clear about things like this! I sympathize in that respect but at the same time I knew better than to scream it from the rooftops because one NEVER knows when your words will be read by someone you work with! And the most interesting thing is this woman is said to have taught her students to never put things on the internet that would get them in trouble…..wow, even I don’t need a degree to know how to protect my job.

  30. Interested in seeing a new and wildly unique teacher’s blog? One that’s deeply thoughtful and downright funny? Then enjoy A Dixie Diary, at http://www.adixiediary.com. The response from readers all over America has been astonishing.

    Actually published a few days ago during the midst of the Munroe business, this unique teacher’s journal shows a different look at what happens in the schoolhouse by a rookie teacher who loves his work and his students, but he expresses his thoughts and observations in a hugely different way than Mrs. Munroe.

    Sure, there are some intense moments, even some choice words, too, but mostly it’s world-class hilarious, heartwarming … like reading a good book. It’s the teacher’s blog we’ve been waiting for. It’s simply mesmerizing.

Trackbacks

  1. So long and thanks for all the fish!…

    This is why I am deleting my blog. I am grateful for the teachers I have “met” while blogging and I will…